Thu 3 May 2012
by Mark LeVine, PhD Dept. of History, UC Irvine, posted on Al-Jazeera, May 1, 2012
It’s been too long. I was a little surprised that I was not part of your just published list of dangerous, Jew- (self-) hating, Nazi-loving supporters of Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions against Israel. Maybe I’m not good – sorry, evil – enough to have made the A-list of Israel-bashers featured in your April 24 New York Times ad . But not even your full list, with 1,004 professors, journalists, artists, activists and organisations? Was there really no room for me, one of your original 101 most dangerous professors?
Indeed, the new list, like the old one, is much longer than the sample you’ve presented. You’ve only scratched the surface; you should hire more interns. Let me help you a bit; you can add me now.
While adding my name, perhaps you might consider the implications of so many people from all walks of life joining the BDS movement: they have decided that decades of illegal Israeli occupation, massive settlement construction, the destruction and theft of much of the natural resources of the West Bank and Gaza – from olive trees to precious water resources – and the systematic detention, torture and murder of tens of thousands of Palestinians, have done grave harm to Palestinian society. These crimes against the Palestinians involve such a wide spectrum of Israeli society and government that calling for the boycott of Israeli institutions, divestment from the Israeli economy and sanctions against the government is both a necessary and moral response to this situation.
You argued in the New York Times ad that supporting BDS is akin to supporting the Nazi attacks on Jews in the years leading up to the Holocaust. You have labelled anyone who accuses Israel of murdering Palestinians – which is actually a statement of fact, not an accusation – a terrorist or supporter of terrorism. This is, of course, nonsense.
Trying to stop a brutal occupation – that the entire world outside of Israel and the United States considers illegal – by using non-violent methods that have been adopted by activists around the world, against systematic human rights abusers, has nothing to do with supporting terrorism. Rather, it is one of the most effective methods available to Palestinian and global civil society to stop ongoing Israeli state terrorism.
And make no mistake, Israel’s actions at all levels of the occupation constitute state terrorism on a grand scale. That other countries equal or surpass Israel’s oppressive policies does nothing to lessen the shamefulness and utter immorality of its actions during the past 45 years.
Realities of the occupation
Really, David. Rather than fabricating accusations against individuals and gatherings (as a group of more than 100 professors who responded to your ad demonstrate in their rebuttal) and more broadly making scurrilous accusations of blood libel against critics of Israel, who, in fact, include increasing numbers of Israeli and diaspora Jews among them – I invite you to think seriously about the costs of decades of Israeli occupation, both on Palestinians and on Israelis. You might still not consider BDS the best method to combat the occupation, but I’m confident that once you take the time to understand the realities of life under occupation for millions of Palestinians, you will join me in the struggle for justice, peace and human rights in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
“I will help you understand the realities that Palestinian society faces … an almost 50-year occupation, an utterly hypocritical set of Western policies towards them and … corrupt, incompetent and often brutal ‘self-government’.”
Perhaps the problem is that you really have no idea what life is like for Palestinians. You might recall that some years ago when we debated each other on some Fox interview programme, I invited you to accompany me to Israel and the occupied territories and to live as a Palestinian lives for several weeks. If you did, you might better understand what it feels to be Palestinian and experience the brutalities, humiliation, indignities, threats, stresses and often misery of life under occupation or as a multi-generation refugee. That offer still stands.
In fact, I’m reiterating it now: Come to Palestine with me, let’s bring a cameraperson and spend ten days or two weeks in the West Bank and Gaza, living with Palestinians in their villages near land-hungry Israeli settlements, surrounded by the separation wall, attempting to farm their land or graze their flocks against constant settler attacks and Israeli-imposed closures – or just trying to live a decent, dignified life.
I will introduce you to Palestinian activists, academics, artists and journalists, as well as their Israeli colleagues who – if you’re willing to listen – will help you understand the realities that Palestinian society faces against the combined onslaught of an almost 50-year occupation, an utterly hypocritical set of Western policies towards them and two decades of corrupt, incompetent and often brutal “self-government” at the hands of the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas.
We will shoot everything, and then each of us can edit the raw footage into the narrative he prefers, but with all the raw footage available online so that everyone can see the facts and experiences from which we constructed our narrative. I’ll even supply the cameraperson.
You might want to return the favour and ask me to join you in Sderot or an Israeli town to experience life as an Israeli does. Well, I’ve lived long enough in Israel to have had these experiences on both sides of the Green Line, but if you think there’s something I’ve missed, I’m happy to do that too. I have nothing to fear from meeting with any Israeli who supports the current policies of occupation and settlement expansion. Are you willing to come and experience life, unfiltered, as the average Palestinian does, and allow your views and statements vis-a-vis Palestine be challenged by the realities on the ground?
Either way, I think that, before you continue demonising Palestinians and those who support their struggle for independence, justice and dignity, it would behoove you, who loves freedom so much that you created an entire centre in its honour, to understand what it means to be one.
Perhaps you feel that the BDS movement’s focus unfairly singles out one country when many other governments engage in similar or even greater levels of repression and violence. It is certainly true that other countries have records that are as dismal as Israel’s, and in some cases even worse. Once we’ve finished our trip, I’ll be happy to help you set up your own BDS campaign against China, Russia, Syria, Bahrain, India or whatever other country you want (why not start with the United States, since it’s done more to suppress the freedom of peoples around the world than just about any country on earth in the past 65 years).
Or we could work together to expose the malfeasance any one of the numerous corporations, from Nike to Chevron, who make massive profits on the backs, and too often, the bodies, of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable peoples. Today, as always, extreme economic exploitation and political, ethnic, national and religious repression are inseparable.
In fact, why not join me in boycotting all governments and corporations with systematically woeful records of violating human, civil, political, labour, cultural and other basic rights, and support the rights of all peoples – Palestinian and Israeli included – to live lives of dignity with their most basic rights protected. Since you have such a problem with the Arab world, why not start with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or Syria – and the corporations that continue to provide weapons, security and monitoring devices and other services to these reprehensible regimes? They could all use a good dose of BDS. And then, when you see how good it feels to be doing something useful, we can discuss BDS in Palestine again.
Please forgive me if, while I wait for you to join me in this endeavour to protect the “moral, cultural and economic foundation” of society (which the Horowitz Freedom Center is dedicated to defending), I continue to support the call by Palestinians and Israelis to support BDS against the Israeli state and institutions complicit in the occupation. I do this not merely as an act of solidarity with Palestinians and the many Israelis who are working tirelessly to end the occupation, and who have determined that BDS is the most effective way outsiders can support their struggle for justice, but because it’s the right thing to do. I hope you, as a great lover of freedom, join me, if not now, then after a tour of Palestine under occupation..
I hope to see you in Palestine and Israel someday soon. Until then, please add my name to your very distinguished, and growing, list of BDS supporters.
I await your reply.
Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books) and The Five Yar Old Who Toppled A Pharoah (University of California, forthcoming).
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